Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Employee satisfaction vs. employee engagement -- and how to measure them

Once you've differentiated between employee satisfaction and employee engagement, another challenge remains: assessing them

December 08, 2009: InfoWorld.com
By Bob Lewis

Dear Bob ...

While I was reading your "Legless Dog Syndrome" article, it got me thinking about a friend's situation -- specifically, the managers' lack of leadership traits where she works.

[ Also on InfoWorld, Bob dismisses other bad methods of measurement in "A case for the separation of management and software" | Get sage advice on IT careers and management from Bob Lewis in InfoWorld's Advice Line newsletter. ]

The team she works on is scheduled for their periodic Employee Engagement Survey soon. From what she tells me, the engagement survey is not supposed to be an employee satisfaction survey, but the questions sure seem to be for an employee satisfaction survey.

An example question is, "How would you rate your manager's involvement in your day to day duties?" or one of my favorites, "How would you rate (on a scale of 1 to 10) your daily work mood?"

The management team puts on a PowerPoint presentation that specifically states "Engagement is not satisfaction." I kind of agree, but the questions are more related to satisfaction, in my opinion. The goal is to raise the scores every time. Thus far, the scores have been consistently low with no movement.

Anyway, is there a difference between an Employee Engagement Survey versus an Employee Satisfaction Survey, or is this some clever management speak? I know my opinion is the latter.

- Unengaged

Dear Unengaged ...

My opinion? The two surveys should be different, because engagement and satisfaction are different concepts.

Or maybe the two surveys should be the same, but different from what either looks like in typical companies. Here's how I think it works:

Fully engaged employees -- those who are emotionally invested in the success of the organization they work in -- should find their work environment satisfying, and satisfied employees are likely to be satisfied because they're in an environment that's thoroughly engaging.

Poor leaders who fail to understand what employee engagement entails are also unlikely to understand what makes for a satisfying work environment. So they'll ask the wrong, but very similar, questions about one, the other, or both -- such as whether employees like the furnishings, the parking arrangements, or what have you. As a consequence, they'll get very similar, bad surveys that fail to ask whether employees are fully engaged in the business, or why.

- Bob

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